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Meet the franchise founder who got rich by getting dirty

From side hustle to dream job: Harsha Rathnayake tells how he worked three jobs to make his rubbish collection franchise Junk Hunters a success

As the old adage goes ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, and I can safely say this phrase has served me well for the past 13 years.

Collecting waste was initially a part time job for me and a route for me to pay my way through university. In my uni days, I would never have dreamt that this would become my life’s work and would lead me to launch Junk Hunters across the UK.

It happened because I developed a passion for recycling and a strong dislike of seeing items dumped illegally by the side of our roads and in our beautiful countryside by so called fly-tippers.

When the owner of the company I worked for as a student decided to retire, I accepted a battered Ford Transit 3.5 tonne tipper truck as a final paycheck and decided to go it alone into waste management.

Hustling to become a successful business owner

Launching my business back in 2009 meant that I was already swimming against the current by opening for trade at the height of the credit crunch. This meant that my initial request for a small bank loan was rejected, and I had to resort to working two-part time jobs to cover my initial costs.

I’d get up at 4:30am to do a paper round before work and then, after a full day collecting junk, I’d start work at my local Indian restaurant at 6:00pm as a takeaway delivery driver. I only slept for around four hours per day as this job finished around midnight.

Eight years later, I have steadily grown Junk Hunters to a point where I now employ 14 people and have a fleet of six trucks.

Our clients cover a range of different industries, such as local councils, estate agents, housing associations, banks, health clubs and other private companies; as well as residential properties.

Right from the start it was a goal of mine to provide a waste removal service that prioritised the ethical disposing of rubbish.

The impact our waste has on the environment has always been of concern to me, which is why I want Junk Hunters to become the UK’s standard bearer in providing an environmentally friendly service – and to recycle and reuse as much waste as possible.

So, how can budding entrepreneurs succeed in the world of franchising?

Becoming a franchisee is a proven method of maximising your chances of success when starting a business. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it's going to be without risks but having a proven business model supporting you certainly gives you a major advantage.

Franchising allows you to cut down on the initial business costs, whilst being associated with a proven brand can provide with an instant boost in interest to help you get your franchise business off the ground.

Franchising also provides you with the benefits of working within a small set-up, but with the backing of a larger network that can lend their expertise and assist with training.

At Junk Hunters, our franchise model functions in two parts; where investors can opt for an ‘operator model’ and start in a more hands-on role with just a single vehicle, or our ‘management model’; where you employ staff who carry out daily duties.

Becoming franchisee is not only about building a business that provides an attractive income, it’s also about providing a valuable service which will have measureable benefits to the environment and your local community.

The Junk Hunters franchise opportunity

Rubbish, or ‘junk’ as we prefer to call it, is big business that continues to grow. Particularly during the last five years of trading we have established a successful business with profits that continue to grow year on year.

Our current projections under a franchised model estimate a gross profit of around £278,000 after five years for each franchisee – not bad when our line of work is other people’s rubbish!

Although this is a brand-new franchise opportunity, we are currently dealing with several strong enquiries from interested business men and women across the country.

We offer an affordable high standard service, and it’s our hope that soon all major cities will have a Junk Hunters branch to take care of their waste… Watch this space!

Want to learn more about becoming a franchisor or franchisee? Read's guides in an introduction to franchising.